Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Soon?

"But as the days of Noah [were], so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:37-39 NKJV

Last week we discussed the possibility that it could be possible to identify the day when the tribulation would begin by looking at when the world was judged by God at the time of the flood of Noah. The Bible tells us clearly that the flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month, which is Cheshvan 17 on the Jewish civil calendar. Now assuming that the tribulation will begin on this same day at some point in the future, is there any way we can speculate on when the rapture will occur?

Now as we have already said, there are all sorts of ideas about when the rapture might occur depending on who you talk to. Many believe it is a number specific event based on the total number of believers in the body, some believe it must occur on a feast day of Israel, and there are even those who believe it occurs during the tribulation, which a few believe has already begun. As always, I want us to look at what the Bible says to see if it sheds any light on this question.

As we see in the passage from Matthew, when Jesus was talking to the disciples about His return He specifically mentions the time of Noah and the flood and tells them that the two events will be similar. The question is; “how similar”? Jesus does go on to describe the lifestyle of the world at the time of the flood, but could there be other similarities as well? Some may not know that this was not the only time Jesus talked about the flood of Noah during His ministry, so why not look to the other?

During His ministry, and some time before the Olivet Discourse, Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem and was asked a question by the Pharisees concerning the coming kingdom. In the course of discussing that subject, He looked to His disciples and used the flood of Noah as an illustration much the same as He would later do in the Garden.

"And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: "They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Luke 17:26-27 NKJV

But what I want you to notice is this; Jesus did not stop there, but went on to use another illustration of God’s judgment falling on mankind.

"Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; "but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed [them] all. "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
Luke 17:28-30 NKJV

Now why is this important? Well, one thing that stood out to me when I compared these two passages looking for similarities was this; not only do they describe God’s judgment on a sinful world, but both accounts state that judgment began the very same day Noah went in and Lot went out. In fact, look at this passage from Genesis concerning the story of Lot leaving Sodom and Gommorah.

"Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there." Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens.
Genesis 19:22-24 NKJV

When discussing the city where he and his family were going to escape to, the angels told Lot that they could not do anything until he and his family were safe in Zoar! Now I think many could easily make the argument that these two accounts suggest that not only is the pre-tribulational rapture of the church the correct one, it is entirely possible that the tribulation will begin on the very day that the church is raptured. While that may indeed be a possibility, I believe there is one more thing we need to consider before we begin to think we could identify a particular day for the beginning of the tribulation. If we look again at the passage in Daniel where he is given the prophecy of the seventy weeks, we find this verse concerning the beginning of that final seventieth week.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate."
Daniel 9:27 NKJV

Now the “he” in this verse refers to the coming one world leader who is also known as the Antichrist, which is only the best known of the many names given to him throughout scripture. In this verse we are told without question that the coming tribulation, the seventieth week of Daniel, begins with the man of sin “confirming” a covenant with the “many”. Most scholars agree that an examination of the original language reveals that what we are being told here is that the Antichrist will enforce an existing treaty between the nation of Israel and it's enemies which most likely will concern their territorial boundaries, with the result being a temporary peace with their neighbors.

Now a point I have always tried to make about this scenario, which is most likely a result of my background as a history major, is that in order to enforce a peace you must have had a war! History shows that treaties of this nature are almost always a result of a conflict between peoples or nations, and I believe this one is no exception. If we assume this to be the case, does the Bible tell us of any conflicts yet unfulfilled in Israel’s future? If you are at all familiar with the future of Israel you know that there is a coming conflict with the entire world revealed to us in the book of Ezekiel, chapters 38-39.

The account given to us here tells of a time when the entire world will turn against Israel, with the result being the positioning of massive army on their borders with the intent of destroying them. It is on this occasion that God will once again come to their aid and reveal Himself by defeating this army by His own power and might. If this is the conflict that results in the confirming of a covenant by the Antichrist, which also begins the tribulation period, does the Bible give us any clues as to when it might occur?

And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: 'I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots And those who ride in them; The horses and their riders shall come down, Every one by the sword of his brother.
Haggai 2:20-22 NKJV

If we look at the first verse of this chapter, it identifies the seventh month as the time this prophecy was given. The Jewish calendar was changed in the time of the Exodus, so on the old civil calendar this would be the third month which corresponds to somewhere around December on our calendar. Many scholars believe that God is identifying this day as the day this conflict will occur, and if you compare the wording of this passage with the description given in Ezekiel 38-39 you will find they are almost identical. This has led many to believe that the events in Ezekiel, which might possibly usher in the tribulation, will occur during the month of December. This year the twenty fourth day of Kislev, also known as the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, begins at sundown on December 20.

Of course, while many believe the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecy occurs before the tribulation begins, there are also those who think it happens during the tribulation. So can we draw any conclusions from everything we have covered in the past two weeks ? I think we can, but if you were thinking we could identify a particular date for either the rapture or the beginning of the tribulation I’m afraid I am going to disappoint you. Do we have clues? Certainly, and I think God deliberately put them in His word so that we would seek them out and increase our knowledge of this period in world history of which the Bible says so much. We are commanded to watch, and God has told us much of what we are to watch for.

My personal feeling is that the prophecy of Isaiah 17, which I have mentioned before, results in the Ezekiel 38 events and these in turn bring about the covenant by the man of sin enforced between Israel and it’s enemies. If the Ezekiel conflict occurs in December, the Isaiah 17 event must take place shortly. With the statements made recently by the leader of Syria concerning attacking Israel, and the unrest going on within his own country, that event seems more and more a strong possibility in the near future. I have also come to the conclusion that there is a very strong possibility the rapture of the church might be the event which lights the fuse to ignite these conflicts in the Middle East.

I, and many others, believe the church could be raptured at any time. The events we see occuring in the Middle East are clearly the precursors to the final conflict which ushers in the tribulation. Since the Bible plainly tells us that God’s judgment has fallen before at this particular time of the year, and His future judgment will most likely happen at this time, don’t you think we should be watching even closer to what is happening all around us? I believe there are going to be some very, very significant events in the coming months and there are many others who believe as I do that our time on this earth is rapidly drawing to a close.
With these things in mind, don’t you think it’s a good idea to…

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